"A major inspiration for Elena Ferrante."—The New York Times
A riveting classic of European literature, this superb collection of fiction and reportage is set in Italy's most vibrant and turbulent metropolis—Naples—in the immediate aftermath of World War Two. These writings helped inspire Elena Ferrante's best-selling novels and she has expressed deep admiration for the author of this volume, originally edited in Italian by Italo Calvino. Goyaesque in its depiction of the widespread suffering and brutal desperation that plagued the city, it comprises a mix of masterful storytelling and piercing journalism. This book, with its unforgettable portrait of Naples high and low, is also a stunning literary companion to the great neorealist films of the era by directors such as Vittorio de Sica and Roberto Rossellini. Neapolitan Chronicles is exquisitely rendered in English by Ann Goldstein and Jenny McPhee, two of the leading translators working from Italian today. Included in the collection is "A Pair of Eyeglasses," one of the most widely praised Italian short stories of the last century.
Anna Maria Ortese (1914-1998) is one of the most celebrated and original Italian writers of the last century. Neapolitan Chronicles brought her widespread acclaim in her native country when it was first published in 1953 and won the prestigious Premio Viareggio.
"A literary gem that reaches beyond post-war Naples to explore timeless human struggles and the ethical responsibility of opening one’s eyes."
—The Times Literary Supplement
"Elena Ferrante has cited Ortese as one of her greatest influences, and the connections are obvious in this collection of short stories and essays, which infuse a grimy, chaotic Naples with unsentimental menace rather than romantic mystique. Ortese gathers concrete details about the realities of poverty, and, like Ferrante, delineates moments of status tension with blunt accuracy."
—The New Yorker
"Required reading for Ferrante fans and scholars of Neapolitan literature."
"Ortese’s people are all in primary colors, so vivid that they jump off the page. Moreover, it is splendidly translated by two masters of their trade, Ann Goldstein and Jenny McPhee ... This book will be of interest to Ferrante fans. But Ortese is worth reading for herself. Her mixture of the surreal and the real in all of this work is original and compelling. An example of prose that has lasted and will continue to do so."
—The Arts Fuse
"Anna Maria Ortese is a writer of exceptional prowess and force. The stories collected in this volume, which reverberate with Chekhovian energy and melancholy, are revered in Italy by writers and readers alike. Ann Goldstein and Jenny McPhee reward us with a fresh and scrupulous translation."
—Jhumpa Lahiri, author of The Lowland and In Other Words
"A classic of 20th-century Italian literature ... that has no equal in Italian literature ... a book that Italo Calvino welcomed this way: 'Dear Anna Maria,' he began and, though usually sparing with compliments, wrote, 'You wrote a beautiful book; you should sing and laugh all day long.'"
—The Los Angeles Review of Books
"When we read Ferrante in English, we do so through the prism of Ann Goldstein. It’s no coincidence she is also co-translator, with Jenny McPhee, of Ortese’s work ... Readers who inhaled the Neapolitan Quartet will find further connections with Neapolitan Chronicles."
—Toronto Globe and Mail
"This short book, so full of arresting images and startling observations, is a portrait of an author who found in a damaged city her perfect muse."
"Eye-opening ... In Ortese's persistence in seeing the truth in her surroundings—however stupefying—it's easy to understand how she inspired Elena Ferrante."
"As for Naples, today I feel drawn above all by Anna Maria Ortese ... If I managed again to write about this city, I would try to craft a text that explores the direction indicated there."
—Elena Ferrante in Frantumaglia: A Writer's Journey
"Anna Maria Ortese's Neapolitan Chronicles is a mother lode, in every sense, for the work of Elena Ferrante. Ferrante drew inspiration from Ortese, not only for the characters, voices, and places in her great tetralogy, but for the power of the woman's voice that narrates them."
—Judith Thurman, author of Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller and Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette
"Ortese’s articles and stories serve as a provocative showcase of how a city once associated with 'ecstatic happiness ... deteriorated into vice and folly.'"
"This remarkable city portrait, both phantasmagorical and harshly realistic, conveys Naples in all its shabbiness and splendor. Naples appears as both a monster and an immense waiting room, whose inhabitants are caught between resignation and unquenchable resilience. Beautifully translated, this lyrical gem has been rescued from the vast storehouse of superior foreign literature previously ignored."
—Phillip Lopate, author of Bachelorhood and Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan
"This beautiful book is a landmark in Italian literature and a major influence on Elena Ferrante—both as a way of writing about Naples and because Anna Maria Ortese may have been the model for the narrator of Ferrante's quartet of novels set there. Ann Goldstein and Jenny McPhee have rendered Ortese’s lively, Neapolitan-inflected Italian in vivid, highly engaging English prose."
—Alexander Stille, author of The Sack of Rome and Benevolence and Betrayal
"Naples is a vast succession of cities—Greek, Samnite, Roman, Byzantine, Aragonese, Spanish, Bourbon, Savoyard—and every phase has had its chronicler. In the aftermath of World War Two, battered, humiliated Naples found no abler witness than Anna Maria Ortese. Sixty-five years later, with international interest in Naples unexpectedly high, Ann Goldstein and Jenny McPhee have given us an essential, eloquent translation as faithful to Ortese’s time as it is vividly alive for our own."
—Benjamin Taylor, author of Naples Declared and Tales Out of School
"Anna Maria Ortese was the last great writer of the generation that produced Italo Calvino and Primo Levi. Today, few critics would disagree with the poet Andrea Zanzotto, who rates her as 'one of the most important Italian women writers of this century.'"
"Gives an essential glimpse into the origins of Ferrante's work ... A mesmerizing companion to Ferrante's Neapolitan project as well as a daring work of both social criticism and narrative inventiveness that stands, toweringly, on its own."
“An astonishing descent into the underworld … A modern artist has rarely rendered so intensely the spectrality of all things.”